Finances: How to Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

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Finances: How to Get on the Same Page With Your Spouse

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

Money is a loaded issue in most marriages because it represents the ability to get the things we need and want. It tends to become an issue of power, dictating who makes the decisions and whose dreams get fulfilled. Needless to say, discussions about money, bills, and budgeting can generate some powerful emotions.

It’s not always easy to navigate money matters, especially in the early years of your marriage. In today’s post, we’re going to explore some ways you and your spouse can get on the same page about your finances–and stay there.

WHICH ONE OF US SHOULD HANDLE THE FINANCES?

When it comes to handling the finances, the best decision is what works best for you as a couple. This could look like one spouse primarily handling all the finances (which is often the case in many marriages) or you could split responsibilities according to what each of you is most comfortable with handling. The most important thing is to generate positive discussion around the subject and avoid putting unnecessary pressure on each other as you hash it all out.

If you’re going to be handling the finances together, make a checklist of all the financial details that you and your spouse need to manage every month, then decide who handles each item. Create calendar reminders to keep up with payment due dates and be diligent to check in with each other to make sure all the bases are covered.

If just one of you is going to take on the bulk of the money management in your household, make sure you both agree to this arrangement and feel comfortable with it. One spouse taking the reins doesn’t mean he or she is going to be controlling your finances. Rather, the person who handles the majority of the bill-paying should primarily be taking care of recurring monthly payments and keeping an eye on where you stand financially.

However you decide to handle money in your marriage, agree together on the parameters surrounding it. It’s important to set a budget that will give each of you freedom, but also accountability; for example, you might want to decide how much spending money you each get every month that doesn’t require you to report back to each other or share every single receipt.

HOW DO WE PREVENT THE MONTHLY FIGHTS OVER BILLS AND BUDGETS?

If your regular financial check-ins tend to dissolve into ugly fights, take a step back to see how you can work together to prevent those unnecessary conflicts. Do you have different spending or saving styles? Does one or both of you hate dealing with financial matters? Does budgeting stress you out?

One easy way to prevent the monthly money fight is to make decisions about how your money gets dispersed before you ever sit down with the books. Then, figure out the non-negotiables for each of you; what items do you need every month (or every two months), and what do they cost? As we mentioned above, you might want to agree on a finite amount of money that each of you gets every month to avoid excessive check-ins surrounding purchases.

Automating some of your monthly bills can reduce the amount of work you have to do when you sit down with the finances. If one of you hates handling finances and wants to be hands-off, delegate the remaining bill-paying tasks to the other.

We all have different styles when it comes to money, so it’s important to know where you both stand and what’s going on with your money so you can make the best choices possible going forward. Some people like to spend; some like to save. Others are skilled at handling administrative tasks, while others are money-avoiders. Wherever you stand, don’t run from the subject of finances. Both of you really need to know what’s going on, whether one or both of you is ultimately handling the bills.

WHAT IF MY SPOUSE GETS DEFENSIVE EVERY TIME I BRING UP MONEY?

What do you do when you can barely broach the subject of money with your spouse? Does he or she become defensive when you attempt to discuss enacting a budget or reevaluating your finances?

A lot of people equate how much they make with how valuable they are to their spouses and families. It’s an identifiable, results-oriented way of defining themselves. If your spouse is feeling insecure about the amount of money they make, it’s possible that they could be mistakenly reading messages of disapproval from you when you bring up the topic.

It’s important to communicate to your spouse that you’re not evaluating their value as a person or a provider when you bring up financial matters. Tell them you respect them, you love the work they do for your family, and you want to strategize together so that you can both steward your money well.

If your spouse responds in a reactive or defensive way when you talk to them about money, it’s important to work together to find out where it’s coming from. Explore these issues in a natural course of conversation. How did their parents approach finances and make decisions regarding money? What were some differences between their family and yours? Maybe there are some deeply embedded beliefs in their mind that get triggered when you bring up the topic, and talking these things through could help you unravel them.

No matter what, remember that finances are an emotional issue for most couples–but don’t run from the conversation. It’s important to get on the same page with one another to create a shared vision for your future together.

If you would like help communicating about finances with your loved one, please give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

 

Help! My Spouse Wants Me to Make More Money!

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Help! My Spouse Wants Me to Make More Money!

By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

You’ve weighed your career decisions, filtered your values and what’s most important to you, and decided on a job that will help you not only bring in a good income, but also balance those values and pursuits in the best possible way for your family–or so you thought. Suddenly, you’re getting outside pressure from your spouse to up your game…and you’re not sure where it’s coming from.

Money is a hot-button issue in most marriages, but the it tends to really hit a nerve where individual income is concerned. Whether one or both spouses is working, it’s not uncommon for at least one person in a marriage to feel like the other should be bringing in more money. If your spouse wants you to earn a better salary, there are probably multiple reasons for this–and you might need to dig deep to pinpoint some of them.

Today, we’ll explore some of the motivations for one spouse pressuring the other to raise their income, and a few ways you can approach the issue together. Chances are, you and your spouse share more common ground than you realize when it comes to your dreams for the future and your desires for your family’s security.

WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE?

It’s painful to realize that your and your spouse’s life dreams are out of sync. A great place to start exploring your differing viewpoints is to try to understand where your spouse is coming from. Did your spouse come from a family of origin that placed a high value on material possessions, job security, or a certain income level? Does he or she want a higher level of income for more freedom, more opportunities, or the chance to travel and have experiences that require extra money? Is he or she hoping to spend more time at home with the children? Or does your spouse want to pursue a degree that requires him or her to work fewer hours in the meantime?

Understanding your spouse’s motivations will give you empathy as you attempt to approach the situation in a constructive way. Most likely, your spouse isn’t trying to be destructive by asking for more money, but their emotions around the subject might prevent them from seeing your side of the coin. Now that you know where his or her mind is, you can make your case more effectively.

Does your spouse realize what you’d be saying “no” to if you said “yes” to a more demanding job? Maybe you work a job that affords you plenty of time with your spouse or your children, and you don’t want to give that up in favor of overtime or a more demanding position. Or you might have chosen your current job because it’s a means to an end that allows you to pursue your true passion on the side–a job that, if you gave it up, would prevent you from pursuing your dream.

Explain to your spouse what he or she (or your family) stands to lose if you take a higher-paying job. Maybe you currently provide them with quality time you’d be giving up, or you might have responsibilities at home you’ll no longer be able to maintain.

WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS

Work together to identify and weigh the pros and cons of you bringing in a larger income. You can get everything in front of you by dividing a piece of paper into “Pro” and “Con” columns, then making notes on each of your stances. Remember to value your relationships with one another and your children over financial resources, and check in with yourselves to make sure your priorities are in order.

More importantly, don’t assume your spouse has his or her priorities mixed up; he or she might want more money for the family to take adventure trips or have special experiences together that you currently can’t afford. It’s important to remember you might just have different ideas of what you can accomplish together, based on your income.

As you make your list of pros and cons, you’ll probably find that you have many more dreams and desires in common than you realized before, even though this issue feels highly polarized. And your spouse may bring motivations to light that he or she didn’t know how to put into words before. If you can both get to the crux of why raising your income is so important, you’ll stand a better chance of pursuing a constructive solution.

FINDING A MUTUALLY-BENEFICIAL SOLUTION

Once the two of you have hashed out your motivations and dreams for your family’s finances, you can land on a solution that works for you both.

If your spouse is craving a sense of financial security–perhaps because of fears stemming from a financially insecure childhood–work together to create a plan that provides more emotional safety. This might involve finding a way to get extra money into savings, or having a solid fallback plan if your current career is uncertain. Your spouse also needs to be willing to become a part of meeting those security needs in a way that works for your family so all the burden isn’t resting on your shoulders. Taking ownership of that fear of financial crisis will, ultimately, make your spouse feel more confident and peaceful about the family’s finances.

If your spouse’s motivations tend to be more material in nature, consider whether your values line up enough to pursue a higher-paying job–but don’t get into the frenzy of trying to achieve a lifestyle that doesn’t fit what you deeply value. If the idea of a weightier job doesn’t work for you, the two of you might agree instead on a contained amount of overtime that will help you achieve specific financial goals, like taking that vacation you’ve been talking about. And if your spouse simply can’t let go of that higher-income dream, you can offer to commit more time to responsibilities at home to allow him or her to take on earning that extra money.

You both have good reasons for choosing the stances you’ve taken regarding earnings and career pursuits. And it’s always possible that your spouse is making a legitimate case for you to pursue a higher income. As the two of you explore your individual situation, we encourage you to each take an honest, objective evaluation of yourself, your career, and your family’s income and material needs to determine your next steps.

If you would like help with your marriage, relationship, or to have premarital counseling, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or life-coach.